Creating a Cover: Justice League Adventures #25 & #26

This time for Creating a Cover we’re going back to a two-part story from Justice League Adventures #25 and #26. The story had Superman, Wonder Woman, the Martian Manhunter and Batman transported to the alien world of Rann where they have an adventure with space-faring hero Adam Strange as a guest star, and I got to draw a recap of his origin which was a lot of fun.

So let’s look at this issue-by-issue. I knew the first part of the story included a scene where Adam Strange comes to the aid of the League members when they are under attack by an alien T-Rex like creature. (It could shoot beams out of its eyes, too. I know, I know…)

JL Adv #25 - sketch a

JL Adv #25 - sketch a

JL Adv #25 - sketch b

JL Adv #25 - sketch b


Sketch A: This was my first design. I liked the Adam Strange figure and the alien T-Rex, but there wasn’t much room for including more members of the League, which I was guessing DC would want.

Sketch B: This take on the same scene featured all the Justice League characters clearly in a bad way, but I didn’t think it did as good of a job showing off our guest star Adam Strange.

JL Adv #25 - sketch c

JL Adv #25 - sketch c

JL Adv #25 - sketch d

JL Adv #25 - sketch d


Sketch C: One more perspective on the same basic scenario – this time an aerial view. I liked this one, as it showed all four involved Justice League members, clearly in jeopardy, and was a great beauty shot for guest star Adam Strange. This was probably my favorite of the four designs I submitted.

Sketch D: The one other idea I included was a throwback to the Silver-Age era that Adam Strange is associated with. It keeps the menace a mystery, but shows Adam Strange confidently pushing the League out of the way on the cover of their own book as he takes center stage to announce himself. I didn’t think they’d go for it, but it would have been fun to draw.

JL Adv #25 cover pencils

JL Adv #25 cover pencils

JL Adv #25 cover inks

JL Adv #25 cover inks


Pencils: As it turns out, they asked for the Adam Strange and T-Rex monster from Sketch A combined with the Justice League figures from Sketch B. I had to flip their orientation and re-arrange them a bit to get the composition to work, but it didn’t turn out too badly given it being a Frankenstein combo of two other ideas. I managed to get a bit of the Rann skyline in there to help establish this as an alien world as opposed to a pre-historic time period or something.

Inks: By Dan Davis.

JL Adv #25 cover color

JL Adv #25 cover color

JL Adv #25 cover final

JL Adv #25 cover final


Colors: The colors looked fine, although with a night-time sky it would have been nice of the skyline in the background would have looked like a night-time skyline.

Final: It amuses me that the dialog given to Adam Strange is so similar to what I’d suggested for Sketch D. It might have been a coincidence given that it’s pretty generic expository bombast! (THAT was a fun phrase to type!) I wish the dialog balloon didn’t cover part of Adam Strange’s body.

So issue 25 left each Justice League member in a cliffhanger situation, and I’d had the brainstorm of taking advantage of Adam Strange’s costume designs to use his chest straps to create a multi-frame cover design that would tease each of the cliffhangers that were to be resolved in the pages of Justice League Aventures #26.

JL Adv #26 - sketch a

JL Adv #26 - sketch a

Sketch A: This was one of my all-time favorite cover ideas, so I pitched hard for it. I did a full cover sketch and didn’t offer any other options (although I obviously would have provided more options if they’d been requested. It was sad watching this one slowly gun off the rails…

At the end of the previous issue, a weakened Superman was being threatened with an axe, Batman had just found a murder victim with a knife in his back, Martian Manhunter was threatened by a pack of the alien T-Rexes as seen on the previous cover, and Wonder Woman was tied to a rocket. All these scenarios were happening simultaneously, so I really liked this as a tease for the multiple resolutions. I loved the multi-frame thing with the red areas of Adam Strange’s costume between the white straps, and I highlighted the threatening element in white in each frame for extra visual interest.

JL Adv #26 - sketch b

JL Adv #26 - sketch b

Sketch B: My editor liked the Adam Strange design part, but wanted the Justice League members in more action-oriented situations. He asked to have the inset scenes changed to ones where Superman was battling an undersea creature, where Batman was being held at gunpoint, where Wonder Woman was fighting a giant robot, and the Martian Manhunter scene could stay the same.

Not only did I not like this as much conceptually, but these scenarios were challenging to depict in a very small, irregular area and keep the Justice League figures large enough to be prominent. Also, this drawing didn’t lend itself to highlighting the threatening elements in the same way, so I tried highlighting the League member’s eyes in white instead. The above layout is what I came up with. It was OK< but already I didn’t like this as much as the original.

JL Adv #26 cover pencils

JL Adv #26 cover pencils

JL Adv #26 cover inks

JL Adv #26 cover inks


Pencils: The pencils turned out OK, and I made sure the editor knew to pass the color sketch I had done along to the colorist for reference, as the color treatment was a big part of the whole concept.

Inks: The inks were again by Dan Davis.

JL Adv #26 cover color

JL Adv #26 cover color

Colors: For me this is where it started to fall apart. I don’t blame the colorist, I think this was a communication breakdown. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any input into the color on this title, so by the time I saw the color version of the art it was final and there was nothing to be done.

  • Rather than more stylized color, the art is the regular colors for the characters just tinted red, and there’s shading applied to the red on the Adam Strange figure which to me makes the inset art look like weird tattoos.
  • The area on Adam Strange’s belt that was intended as a highlight is colored like it’s surface detail, like an off-center belt buckle. It doesn’t look bad, it’s just wrong, and inconsistent with how the character looks elsewhere in the book.
  • The color on Adam Strange’s face doesn’t seem to have the same underlighting scheme the line-art does.
  • The biggest change is the addition of a space background. I think it changes the way the whole piece plays, and the sparse stars don’t read to me as a space background, the just look like hastily-added white dots.
JL Adv #26 cover final

JL Adv #26 cover final

Final: So there’s the final cover. It’s not a terrible cover, but it’s not what I’d intended. I think the “Strange Days!” text to the left of Adam Strange’s head makes the open space to the right seem oddly empty – it unbalances an otherwise symmetrical design. Ah, well. Rarely is a piece of art everything you want it to be, and the reader doesn’t know what you’d originally had in mind. Unless you do something silly like write blog entries where you do deeply into the behind the scenes process of how you design covers.

Whoops.